Andrew Dys

Board botched play on turf vote

The reason we elect people, all the way up to the president, is for them to be leaders.

To decide how to spend your money, to make tough decisions for the right reasons, to represent you.

On the Rock Hill school board, directing the largest school system in York County with the largest number of employees of any employer in York County, apparently you have just one leader left.

His name is Jim Vining.

Only Vining from the get-go was opposed to the district spending about $1 million on artificial turf and a scoreboard for a football stadium. He was joined, at the 11th hour before the final vote Monday night by one board member who played both sides of the fence. That member said he was for the turf and scoreboard, but he changed his vote after people bombarded him with complaints that the idea was ridiculous.

The stadium will get turf. But teachers who buy school supplies out of their own pockets will not get money back. They got fake grass and a scoreboard for businesses to sell their wares and the school system to make a little money on it.

The scoreboard should read forever: School board 1, public 0.

Where is Britt Blackwell when you need him?

Blackwell was on the Rock Hill school board for eight years. He butted heads with people all the time because he was conservative in all areas, especially money. Blackwell was tight with your money.

Blackwell is now on the state school board. I called him about the turf vote because I knew that he would have followed the issue, not as a state board member but as somebody who cares about the schools here. He is a parent and taxpayer first.

I thought I knew how he would have voted if he were still on the Rock Hill board. Of course, Blackwell said he would have voted no to turf.

He knows that for decades, the district had two high schools using one stadium with good, green grass. Nobody complained. Now, the school district has three high schools with two stadiums -- the newest stadium cost millions, and it has lovely, green grass. He knows there will soon be a fourth high school, and that school will likely lobby for a stadium. Chances are good it might need grass.

Or now, I guess, turf.

Blackwell took it upon himself to research this turf idea. He found out it would cost money in maintenance in the long run and that a majority of professional athletes don't like playing on it. He gave what he found to current board members before the vote because, he said, "I know they have a tough job."

Yet, the turf passed, easily. Touchdown, turf.

The money for the turf and scoreboard comes from a surplus from last year's budget. I wonder if any teacher who bought construction paper or supplies for a kid who has none or just stuff because they love students and their job, would have liked a bit of that surplus.

Think any taxpayer, with kids in school or not, would accept a rebate? Good schools make good places to live. I think most people willingly pay taxes for schools if they know that schools can be the best they can be.

Blackwell, in his years on the school board, made decisions that he knew would be lightning rods because board members are, "elected to do what you think is right."

He said it was "the only way I can be a true leader."

Blackwell mentioned something the money could have been used for: Merit bonuses, a one-time shot possibly to reward teachers who succeed.

Then, Blackwell said something to me that sounded so reasonable, so sane: "If anybody other than the taxpayer deserved that money, it is the teachers."

There is no doubt the members of the school board care about children, and schools, and they should be commended for their volunteer efforts. But on the subject of turf, other than Vining, the rest of the board fumbled.